The Guilty Party

Friday, September 19, 2008

Hey! Look at Me!

I have been participating in a couple of writers' sites whose stated goal is to help "undiscovered talent get noticed". Seeing as how the path to publication is one littered with obstacles and bewildering mazes this seems like a laudable objective. But there seems to be a couple of problems that bedevil these efforts. And those problems are Message Boards and Rankings.

We will take Rankings first. Ideally the ranking systems function to bring the best work to the fore, making it possible to sift through the mass of material and at least relatively easily find the Stuff Worth Taking a Closer Look At.

A lot of folks point to this component of these writers' sites and equate it with American Idol and like television talent contests. Problem is, this analogy isn't at all accurate. For on American Idol it is the viewers who determine the fate of the contestants. On the writers' sites it is the other participating writers, in other words their rivals, or in the case of one site, both their rivals and the friends, relatives and/or paid accomplices of the competition. While it is certainly true that Singer A's hometown buddies are likely to crowd on to the phone lines to vote for their favorite son or daughter, the possibility of that constituency substantially affecting the overall results is small. A writers' site just doesn't attract that many disinterested folk, making it a whole lot easier to manipulate the rankings.

But the biggest pitfall I have found in these Literary Talent Scrambles is the Message Board. Nearly all of the folks on these sites are like me in that they have day jobs and/or full time school or both. Many have families and/or spouses who deserve time and attention. In other words the time available for writing is limited in the extreme. And yet put them in front of a computer and it isn't their one-third finished first draft they plow into, it's the damned message board. And a whole lot of the messages when boiled down to their essentials are nothing more than Look At Me and My Work of Genius. So we look, and find a rough draft of a poorly thought out story laden with cliches, lousy grammar, atrocious spelling and violations of most if not all of Mark Twain's Rules Governing the Literary Arts.

The saddest thing is when the really talented folks get caught up in that spiraling descent into Time Poorly Spent. Often as not they feel they have to in order not to be drowned out by the Paris Hilton wannabees of the literary world. It takes an act of real courage to, if not withdraw, at least consciously curtail the amount of time spent keeping ones avatar front and center and dedicate that recaptured time to doing some by God writing.

Because honestly, what is the good of yelling "Hey! Look at Me!" when you have yet to produce anything worth looking at.

Go Ye Forth and Do Likewise.

In case you are wondering, Odie came by his graduation cap legitimately. He saved his allowance money and purchased a degree in Theoretical Religious Studies from the University of Everyone's a Winner, Really!


Timber Beast said...

Did you know, Odie could have gotten ordained by the Church of the Latter-Day Dude (

Lexi said...

Sound words of wisdom, as usual, Alan.

I'd write more, but I've just got to pop over to the forum - I mean, get on with chapter twenty...

(You have to admit, it'll be exciting at midnight tonight, when the Sock Puppet People get what is coming to them.)

postcardsfromk said...

I admire your sanity, Alan!

Have fun using your time more wisely. I'm jealous, but still stupidly addicted to the internet.

Good luck with the writing.

Gigi said...

I'm also thinking of leaving Authonomy - it's too exausting! As for the forums - half the time, I don't understand what they're talking about :-( And frankly, this plugging business seems a tad suspect to me...

I spend more time at the Bookshed now.

Good luck with your book, Alan...

A Bit About Me

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I am a writer with a longtime interest in photography. I'm a dad, husband, photographer, and not very good guitarist. My first novel, Boomerang, is available in both paperback and ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and As a matter of fact, my second novel, The Baer Boys, can be found at exactly the same places.